(Khartoum) Fighting pitted the Sudanese army against a powerful paramilitary force for the second day in a row on Sunday, amid a power struggle between the two generals in command of Sudan since the putsch of 2021, killing at least 56 civilians in 24 hours and three UN humanitarian staff.
According to witnesses, heavy weapons fighting raged on Sunday in the northern suburbs of Khartoum, as well as in the south of the capital, between the regular army and the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), of ex-militiamen from the war in the Darfur region.
Air raids shaking buildings, artillery fire, street battles with automatic rifles or heavy machine guns left no respite for the inhabitants of Khartoum deprived of water and electricity.
The fighting is concentrated in the capital and in Darfur, in the west of the country, arousing the concern of the international community.
A network of pro-democracy doctors counted 56 civilians as well as “dozens” of fighters killed, and more than 600 injured.
The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has suspended aid to Sudan after three of its staff were killed in fighting in Darfur.
In Khartoum, bathed in the smell of gunpowder, street fighting and armored vehicles across the roads prevent any movement. Many armed men in fatigues roam the streets, as well as rare civilians carrying their belongings in search of shelter.
In the city center where the political and military institutions sit, columns of thick black smoke rise.
“It’s very worrying, it looks like it won’t calm down soon,” said Ahmed Seif, who lives with his wife and three children in eastern Khartoum.
He fears his building has been hit by gunfire, but says he is “afraid to go out and check” for fear of stray bullets and men in fatigues roaming the streets.
In Khartoum, the night was long. “The explosions and shootings have not stopped,” said Ahmed Hamid, a resident of the northern suburbs.
Witnesses also reported artillery fire in Kassala, in the east of the country.
The conflict had been simmering for weeks, preventing any political settlement in a country, one of the poorest in the world, which, since the popular revolt that overthrew Omar al-Bashir in 2019, has been trying to organize its first free elections after 30 years. of dictatorship.
During the putsch that ended the democratic transition in October 2021, the head of the army, Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, and the boss of the FSR, General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, known as “Hemedti”, had united to oust civilians in power.
But the rivalry between the two generals, latent for weeks, escalated into violence on Saturday and Khartoum awoke to the sound of explosions and fighting.
The international community has since multiplied calls for a ceasefire. The latest came from Beijing as Pope Francis urged to “pray for arms to be laid down”. The Arab League and the African Union met urgently.
Chad, bordering Darfur, has closed its border.
In Cairo, Arab countries agreed to condemn the violence and call for a “political solution”.
It was impossible on Sunday to know which force controlled what. The FSRs announced that they had taken the airport in a few hours on Saturday, but the army denied it.
The FSR also said to hold the presidential palace. The army has denied and above all claims to hold the HQ of its staff, one of the main power complexes in Khartoum.
As for the television, the two parties also claim to have taken it. In the surroundings, residents report continuous fighting while on the air, only patriotic songs are broadcast without any commentary, as during the putsch.
Because the open war between the generals is also media: Saturday, Hemedti chained the interviews to the television channels of the Gulf, of which several States are his allies, multiplying the insults against General Burhane, who, him, remained invisible so far .
Hemedti has repeatedly demanded the departure of “Burhane the criminal”, while the army published on Facebook a “wanted notice” against Hemedti, “criminal on the run”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on the two men to demand “an immediate end to the violence”. He urged the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, a big influential neighbor, to act when since Saturday Cairo has been worried about a video showing several of its soldiers apparently in the hands of RSF men.